"Suggestions of Success"
(Was going to call this "Atlas Shrug")
(On the UFS Arcadia, somewhere...)
Sweat dripped and poured off of his body. His nanomods would have provided thermoregulation, but he deactivated them for the workout.
The sphere was stone on the outside, inlaid with gammatrinium foam – the kind used in starship hulls – and huge. He squatted under its weight, harness strapped around his chest, and braced himself. Last step in the workout. The big one. He breathed in and out for a few moments, bracing himself. Don't think. Muscles loose. Arms limber. Hands flexing, then tightening around handle grips on two long bars at the bottom. Legs tight, he pushed... felt the resistance of the mighty weight pressing upon him... made that resistance his own, transferring the energy into himself, and pushed harder. Teeth clenched, lips peeled, a growl fought free of his throat. He took that and channeled it into his focus. The stone began to budge. His arms trembled, then his whole body.
No, he thought. Don't let it win. Become the balance. Be the shift. It wants to move. Just... let... it... be.
The massive stone sphere came loose of its steel cradle, atop the shoulders of Stephen April – twice his size... six times his weight.
He didn't stop until he was standing straight. Face straining, muscles trembling, he let it sink in, for an instant – he did it! – then ordered the harness loose. At the mental cue it snapped free from his chest, whipping off behind his back. The massive stone globe fell back into its cradle with a thud, vibrating the ground.
He stood there, chest heaving, unable to resist the smile of success. Success. It felt great. Granted, it would have been harder without genemod enhancements, but most modern weight-lifters used them – the competitive edge.
It wasn't a record, in itself. He wasn't the first to do it. But he was the first Starfleet captain. April privately thanked Marlang for the suggestion. He wanted to do something different – something he had never done. Something Stephen April had never done. He wanted to be different. Different. And he had done it.
He had been wrestling with identity crisis. Who was he? He wasn't sure. He turned, lifting his eyes to the massive sphere: The symbol of the weight. He didn't know for sure who he was anymore. Was he Stephen April or wasn't he? He went by the name. It was what everyone called him. He didn't have anyone else's genetic code. He had Stephen April's. There wasn't anyone else around with that name or genetic code. That made him Stephen April, or the closest to it.
So be it, then. He would be "Stephen April". But he would be more. He would be a better Stephen April than Stephen April had ever been. He would do more with his life. He saw the opportunity, and would not waste it.
He caught a whiff of his underarms and rolled his eyes. Whew.
"Nanomods, activate," he breathed, envisioning a personal shower unit. The stall flashed into being two feet in front of him. He stepped in as his workout attire dematerialized, and lost himself in the luxury of sonic cleansers, while nanites cleaned his insides.
Sunni Moon strode out of the turbolift. It was more of a strut – as much as "strutting" could be allowed within bounds of protocol. It was a day for success, and she felt great. She stopped by the Echostone's dedication plaque and rubbed at a corner with her sleeve. No smudges while she was first officer, no sir.
First officer. Her. Lieutenant Commander Sunni Moon. First officer of the starship USS Echostone.
Restraining an urge to giggle hysterically, she continued across the bridge. Captain Patar'andar was a noticeable, formidable presence, standing by the helm – tall, ominous, back turned, watching movement within the holosphere. Moon paused at tactical, looking over Mandel's shoulder. He glanced up; she met his glance with an approving nod.
"Good work, Lieutenant." She stepped up beside Patar'andar, at attention. "Good morning, Captain sir!"
Patar'andar was Jem'Hadar – the first to join Starfleet, and first to make captain on a Federation vessel. Pairing Sunni Moon and a Jem'Hadar was like pairing an avocado and a banana. They might both be fruits, but they just didn't compare. Still, he picked her from a list of candidates for XO, and she was determined not to let him down.
Patar'andar looked at her. He wasn't one of the warriors, renowned inside and out of the Dominion they served. He was one of the new breed – those the Founders allowed to revert to dual genders, in order to perpetuate themselves through procreation. Few people knew what a Jem'Hadar female looked like. Patar'andar knew. He had a mate somewhere back home. None entirely resembled the old Jem'Hadar: They lacked the cranial spikes and fierceness for which the old Jem'Hadar were also once renowned. Still, they weren't the 'old' 'new breed', either, the softer types bred for a limited period a couple decades ago, with scientific aptitude. Patar'andar's caste was made for military service – to serve and to protect, and to command.
He towered over Sunni, a good head taller than the blonde. Sunni might have felt intimidated, if she didn't exist in a perpetual good 'sunny' disposition, like her name (most of the time).
"At ease, Commander," he said in a deep baritone voice. "Is your inspection complete?"
Without ado, Sunni opened her hand. A padd materialized. "All the crew reviews are ready and waiting. We've got optimum efficiency on the engines and every system checks out, one hundred percent." As the Jem'Hadar took the padd, she added, "We could fly through a supernova without a scratch."
Patar'andar scanned the padd's contents to memory then let it dissolve. He folded his hands behind his back. "A bold suggestion. Very well. Ensign Carpolo: Change course to two-six and open a conduit to Nem-Loth."
Sunni blinked. Her grin started to fade a little. "Uh..." She giggled nervously. "What?"
"Nem-Loth will explode in sixteen-point-four-three ship-hours," the captain stated. He turned to face her, caught her expression and tilted his head. "Do you retract your assertion, Commander Moon?"
Sunni opened her mouth, closed it and raised her chin. If he wanted to test her? – okay then. "I wasn't seriously suggesting we..." She resisted an urge to swallow. "...do what I said, but hey... don't let me spoil the mood." She stepped beside the flight controller. "Step on it, Carpolo."
The young man at conn looked back and forth, uncertain. At the order, he nodded with a "Yes, ma'am," and made the adjustments.
Moon looked at Patar'andar again, smile back on her face.
Patar'andar didn't smile, but seemed impressed, and just as undaunted. He turned and went to his chair, Moon following. They both took their seats in synchronous motion.
In the holosphere, a transwarp conduit flared open, and the Echostone hurtled in.